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February 12, 2018

How Long For Bikini Contest Prep

How Long for Bikini Contest Prep?

How Many Weeks does it take to prep for a Bikini Competition?

I am writing this blog because as an experienced bikini competition prep coach, I get this question constantly. Hopeful bikini competitors know they want to compete but are unsure how many weeks they will need so they can set “the” date. Setting the date for your competition is like setting the date of your wedding! You can’t plan the other things until the date is set.

For many girls, a bikini competition is a goal they set to get in better shape and they want to reach it sooner than later. Signing up for a bikini competition requires creating a timeline so you can plan accordingly. There’s a lot that goes into prepping for your first bikini competition, so be sure to download our free “Bikini Competition Prep Guide” to learn about choosing a league, getting a spray tan, buying your suit, doing your makeup, and even an overview of how competition day will go.

Before you sign-up for a specific show, you want to be sure it gives you enough time to get lean & confident in your skin, right? I get ya! I am the same way. Give me a date and then I am giving it 100% to reach my goal by that date. But without a date… I am not fully on board.

The problem is, there is no standard number of weeks for prepping for your first bikini competition. For some reason, most people throw around the number 12 like 12 weeks is the magic timeline, but that's not the case. The average bikini contest prep is around 16-24+ weeks - it truly varies by person.

If you’re in this boat of questioning how many weeks it takes to prep for a bikini competition, then keep reading. I will share what I take into account when ladies ask me how long to bikini contest prep for.


How long to bikini contest prep? How many weeks does it take to prep for a bikini competition? The answer is individualized and depends on many different factors.

Factors that impact your bikini competition prep timeline:

-Your current physical activity level (strength training & cardio; intensity and frequency)

-Your current weight

-Your current body fat percentage

-Your current caloric intake (that you maintain weight on)

-Your metabolic health and nutrition history

-The genetics passed down from your lovely parents

You can measure body fat many different ways. Here’s how to measure it at home! Or you can guess based on these photos.

weeks for bikini contest prep

Based on those factors, let’s play out four scenarios together. Keep in mind, these are generalized scenarios and you may not fit into just one scenario. Ultimately, your bikini competition prep timeline should be personalized to your body. You need to know that most girls compete in the bikini division at 10-15% body fat which is very, very lean. The professional bikini competitors are toward the 10-12% end of the spectrum (especially IFBB/NPC league). Some leagues (like all-natural leagues) the competitors may be 12-15% as the judges don't expect you to be quite as lean.

how to go from npc to ifbb


Client #1

Sarah comes to me for coaching and her current status is the following:

-She strength trains 4-5 days a week and does very little cardio

-She is currently at a healthy/normal weight for her height

-Her body fat percentage is <20%

-She has a high caloric intake at 2,000+ calories per day to maintain weight

When Sarah asks me for a timeline, I will likely tell her she needs around 16 weeks to successfully prep for her bikini competition. Why? I estimate she will lose body fat and weight fairly quickly because I can gradually reduce her energy intake (drop calories) and increase her energy expenditure (increase training/steps/cardio). She likely has good muscle mass from her strength training experience and she eats a lot already so a slight deficit in calories will yield great results. This is the best case scenario. Clients like Sarah will typically drop body fat well.

Client #2

Sally comes to me for coaching and her current status is the following:

-She strength trains 4-5 days a week and does very little cardio

-She is currently at a healthy/normal weight for her height

-Her body fat percentage is 20-25%

-She has a moderate macro or caloric intake at 1,500 calories per day to maintain weight

When Sally asks me for a timeline, I will likely request just a few additional weeks extra compared to Sarah. Why? She's eating slightly lower calories which leaves me with less room to drop calories to put her into a deficit. Also, her starting body fat levels are slightly higher. So in her case I may recommend 16-20 weeks to be sure she is fully prepared for her show.

Client #3

Samantha comes to me for coaching and her current status is the following:

-She strength trains 2-3 days a week and runs 3-5 miles a day

-She is currently at a healthy/normal weight for her height

-Her body fat percentage is <20%

-She has a moderate macro or caloric intake at 1,100 calories per day to maintain weight

When Samantha asks me for a timeline, I will likely encourage her to put her goal of competing in the distance and instead focus on making some lifestyle changes first before trying to lean out for a show. Samantha already does a lot of cardio and does not eat very much. So how would I be able to help her lean out from 20% body fat to 10-15%? I won’t be able to make much progress by adding cardio either because her body already is used to a lot of it and needing that steady state cardio. I also won’t be able to lower her calories much farther because they’re already pretty low. So I may recommend she spend time making some changes to her routine: steadily increase calories, decrease steady state running, increase strength training frequency, etc. A reverse diet and a breakup with steady state cardio would be the perfect plan for her! Then within 6-12 months she will likely be in a better overall physical state to begin an official bikini prep. It will be worth the wait because now her metabolism is ramped up and her body will respond to calorie and cardio changes better. She will be more successful on stage thanks to her patience- and likely healthier in the long run.

Client #4

Stacie comes to me for coaching and her current status is the following:

-She does not currently workout at all and is not overly active

-She is overweight for her height

-Her body fat percentage is 30%+

-She eats >2,000 calories per day to maintain weight

When Stacie asks me for a timeline, I will likely encourage her to make competing a long term goal at 24 months (6 months) or longer. Instead, she should make some short term goals with me first. I’d want to teach her how to strength train effectively to increase muscle mass and work on slow and steady weight loss first. Then once I get her to around 20% body fat, we could potentially set a competition date and get serious about contest prep.


After reading those four scenarios, you can hopefully understand how hard it is to answer the question of “how long to bikini contest prep?”

So many factors affect our body’s ability to lean out: while keeping in mind we are all individuals and there is no cookie cutter plan that will work for everyone. We must also remember that slow and steady wins the race. Going on a competition prep plan where you are starving and doing hours of cardio to lose weight fast is not healthy, nor sustainable for several months. You will likely end up rebounding hard right after the show and struggling with quick weight regain. 

Prepping for a bikini competition is complicated and very complex. If you need help with your nutrition and training for a bikini competition, find a professional who can help guide you. Here at Beautiful to the Core, I (Steph) have a doctoral degree in physical therapy, a certification in strength and conditioning (CSCS) from the NSCA, and have a lot of experience coaching women from all different backgrounds and scenarios. I can help customize a program that is perfect for you and will guide you to success on stage. I have all clients sign-up for 16 weeks and then we can add on more time later, if needed, based on how you progress. Join my coaching team today!

bikini competition prep coaching
bikini contest prep coach
contest prep coach

If you’d like an estimate on number of weeks I’d recommend for you for a competition prep, feel free to contact me and include all the factors listed about in each scenario above (fitness level, height, weight, body fat % estimate, current macros/calories). I'll then ask for a photo of you (in sports bra/shorts or swimsuit). I'm happy to give you my quick recommendation and answer any questions you may have about coaching.

Remember, this is the only body you get. Doing a bikini competition is an amazing learning experience and will help you grow, but there’s life after a competition. Don’t take the fast track to lose weight super quick for a show and then expect to keep it off. Don't sacrifice your long-term health by following a contest prep that starves you and wears you down. Choose a program that fits your lifestyle, goals, and provides a healthy and safe way to get your body prepared for the stage. That way, your body and metabolism stay healthy post-show and allow you to continue to thrive!

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  • Didn’t know know there was such a thing as a bikini competition. If that is what a person wants to do go for it. Not something I am comfortable with

  • I’m not trying to enter any bikini competitions but I am trying tone up and get ready for summer so going to have to try using more weights like your suggestions for one of your clients.

  • These are interesting facts about getting a bikini body which I have not heard off but it makes so much sense. Its great if you know exactly how much you need to lose and for how long and you can plan ahead.

  • Very informative post for those wanting to prepare for a bikini competition. Like with any physical preparation for any competition, as you say, there are several factors to take into account to determine how long preparation will take you.

  • I found this so interesting to read. I don’t think I would ever have a bikini competition body but I really envy those with the dedication to do this.

  • Omg. I had a friend that got into this, and I seriously have never moved on. It is SUCH a hard thing to do. I really respect the people that go through these competitions and keep coming back. The diets and work outs are so difficult!

  • I admire these women who are dedicated to stay fit! The hardwork truly pays off 🙂
    This kind of workout is also cool for post pregnancy, right?

    • BMI or body mass index is mass divided by height. SO we can see if we are within a healthy weight range for our height. But body fat percentage from tests like skin fold tests are more accurate at representing how many body fat we hold. It measures lean muscle mass versus fat. So for bikini competitors, body fat percentage is what we use to reference our progress to getting on stage.

  • I would like to know if it is possible to train for a bikini contest, without doing cardio. I am having hormonal issues, adrenal fatigue, and high cortisol. My objective is to get bikini ready without actually competing. So, per doc my restrictions are the following: no cardio, and can only workout 3 times a week, and would prefer weight training over any other exercise. For your information, my current workout regimen is 6 days.

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